Mobile operator EE first in UK to block piracy sites

UK mobile network operators have started to ban access to illegal file-sharing sites, following in the footsteps of broadband providers, with EE taking the lead on the restrictions.

The company has been restricting access to piracy sites through its broadband network since the early 2010s, in the wake of a lawsuit brought by the British Phonographic Institute (BPI) seeking to block access to The Pirate Bay and around 70 other platforms.

The list has since grown to upwards of 200 sites – although many include The Pirate Bay can still be accessed through proxy URLs – but until now access using a smart device on a mobile network remained an option.

Now, a new High Court ruling means that the blocking of pirate music sites and apps is being extended to users of mobile networks, according to a BPI statement.

"Historically the majority of piracy took place on fixed line networks, but as network speeds increase and content file sizes for music decreases, mobile networks are seeing a rise in piracy," said EE in a statement.

"EE believe in supporting content creators by combatting piracy across both our mobile and fixed networks."

Other mobile network providers – including O2, Vodafone, and Three – are expected to follow suit but haven’t yet commented publicly on their plans.

"There are now more mobile subscriptions than people in the UK," said BPI general counsel Kiaron Whitehead, the barrister responsible for devising and delivering the music industry’s website blocking strategy.

"We want those fans to enjoy genuine music sites and be protected from illegal sites as much as they already are on their broadband and wi-fi."

BPI estimates that online piracy costs the record industry £200m ($236m) a year, which could increase as mobile usage grows.

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